87 illustrated Chords

A chord consists of 3 or more tones played simultaneously. Many chords can be made by combining the 12 tones of the chromatic scale. An effective way to understand how these chords are built and named is to see how they are built and named. Refer to the 87 illustrated chords below to more fully understand chord construction.

When parenthesis are used aside the name (far left column), such as Minor (-) or Major 9th (M9). These are simply setting a precedent for following chords. Pointing out how the chord name would be spoken.

As all chords are generally named and understood in relation to the major scale, the chords here have been illustrated transposed upon this scale.


Black boxes indicate the tones which comprise the chord. Immediately following the illustrated chord is it’s formula written in relation to the major scale. Next lies the symbol column which points out multiple ways in which the chord may be symbolized (using the key of C as an example). And lastly the compatible scales column refers to the scales found on this site which share the scale degrees with the respective chord.

The chords here are arranged in relation to their construction and naming conventions: Basic  6's  Major-7ths  Dominant  Minor  Diminished  Inversions.


Identifying and organizing the many chord possibilities begin with 3 tone chords (basic) and how they differ from the major chord (scale degrees 1 3 and 5 - the Major Triad). Specific names are given to describe the tones which differ from the major scale. For instance a Suspended chord (sus) refers only to a chord in which the 3rd scale degree is raised a half step - unless otherwise noted (for example a sus2).

Basic chords are followed in complexity by 4 tone chords which add a 6th or 7th tone. These are followed by extended chords which add a tone an octave higher. The 7th and extended chords are grouped into Major, Dominant, Minor, and Diminished, distinctions which describe the type of triad (basic chord), along with it’s 7th (minor or major). Scale degree's 5 and 3 are often omitted when playing/constructing large extended chords.




© 2013